Wednesday, January 27, 2010

VSL Gets You Ready: Vanderbilt at Tennessee

I apologize for not getting this up sooner, but it's been a pretty hectic day down here in Columbia, where the Gamecock nation is going crazy over the huge win last night over #1 Kentucky.

South Carolina's victory places the Commodores a half-game ahead of Kentucky in the SEC East standings. While we might not stay that way after this week, the magnitude of that loss increases the importance of this road game.

Stealing one from Tennessee tonight would give the Commodores a two game cushion over the Vols and would keep us one step ahead of Kentucky going into Rupp on Saturday. A loss at Rupp would result in a tied record with Kentucky holding the tiebreaker. However, unlike Kentucky and Tennessee, we would be playing some of our most important games, with the exception of Ole Miss and Florida, in the friendly confines of Memorial. The rest of the SEC East would need to travel to Nashville with us having eliminated the majority of our road travels against East opponents (though a fiery Georgia squad is not someone to look past).

But speaking of that Georgia squad, their victims stand in the way of us maintaining our lead atop the SEC East. The Tennessee Volunteers will not lay down and give this game up by any stretch of the imagination. Tennessee is 17 in Ken Pomeroy's rankings and boasts one of the best defensive turnover percentages in the nation (if you believe in his statistics).

Tennessee, despite the loss of All-American candidate Tyler Smith and big bully down low Brian Williams, has played remarkably well. No matter what you think of Bruce Pearl personally, the guy can flat out coach. His teams play tenacious defense, are opportunistic, and thrive on momentum.

I believe we are all familiar with Wayne Chism, who has made a career out of throttling Vanderbilt in our previous encounters. While Tyler Smith was the primary culprit in our throttling in Knoxville last year, Chism came into Nashville and made his presence well known, getting 20 points on 8-11 shooting, as well as two huge threes. He also nabbed 7 rebounds.

Chism is averaging 11.8 ppg and about 6.4 boards per game over the season, but has played some extremely good games, especially against Ole Miss, where he scored 26 to lead them to a home victory. As mentioned, Chism CAN shoot the three, and is very athletic underneath the basket. But his greatest asset is on defense where, simply put, A.J. has been able to very little against him.

There is positive news about this match-up for A.J., however. First, Chism has been suffering from a sprained knee that happened at the Georgia game. Chism at 75% is much more ideal than Chism at 100%, and this could work in our favor. Chism also has a propensity to get in foul trouble, and with the suspension of the aforementioned Brian Williams on-going, Tennessee lacks depth in the post. As a result, going after Chism early and often is going to crucial to our success, both with A.J. down low and with Taylor forcing the issue by taking it to the bucket.

Tennessee also has an athletic playmaker in J.P. Prince. Prince is fairly erratic as a player however. Though he had impressive performances at home against Auburn and Ole Miss, he struggled on the road against Alabama and Georgia. I would expect Prince, however, to put up a solid game, as he had 16 points in Memorial last season, and then 8 points and 10 boards in the home stand in Knoxville. He loves to get after Vanderbilt, maybe because he didn't appreciate our admissions policy.

The player, in my mind, Vandy has to worry about the most is Sophomore guard Scotty Hopson. Hopson is averaging 13.7 ppg and is shooting threes at 41% clip. He is a dangerous outside shooter that must be contained. He was by far the most effective offensive threat for the Vols on their most recent road trip, scoring 17 against Alabama and 19 against Georgia. It will be imperative for Vanderbilt to find him on the floor at all times.

Bobby Maze and Cameron Tatum round out the rest of the Vols lineup, with Kenny Hall also providing clutch minutes. Maze is an adept passer who has a 3/1 assist-to-turnover ratio, and Tatum has the ability to hurt defenses from three as he shoots about 40% from beyond the arc. Hall has gotten more minutes with the loss of Williams and Smith, and has made his presence felt over the last couple of games, nabbing a double-double against Auburn and scoring 10 against Georgia.

Tennessee's bread and butter is on defense, where they are second in steals per game behind South Carolina and lead the SEC in turnover margin. They aren't particularly great at rebounding, so it will be important to control the glass. A major reason for Georgia's win was a 34-22 edge for the Dawgs in rebounding. Tennessee is also very careful with the ball, and as a team leads the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio. They are also very efficient, as they are 3rd in the SEC in field-goal percentage (in case you were wondering, the Commodores are first).

Our match-ups with Florida and South Carolina should have prepared us nicely for this particular bout, and the game plan really should be no different. Using our three-headed monster of Ogilvy, Fez, and Steve T. we need to come after Chism and try to keep him on the bench as much as possible. From there, we need to do a much better job of boxing out than we did against Auburn, and ride our post play and efficiency to victory, with Beal, Tinsley, and Jenkins nailing clutch threes to stomp out momentum. The environment will be hostile, and Tennessee will be stinging from their loss at the hands of the Dawgs, but this is a game we can win, and if we REALLY want to take advantage of some crucial losses, it's a game we must win.


Colin said...

I like the analysis, but remove Beal's name from the clutch threes line. Statistically he should never shoot a three. So unless he has the ball as the shot clock expires it is a mistake regardless of whether it goes in or not, incidently this never happens and the clock is more likely to have somewhere around 30 seconds on it, you all love stats so I am just appealing to your interests. Feel free to insert somethign along the lines of Beal pulling up and hitting 15 footers to help open up the offense, but let's not be enablers with the 3pt thing.

Douglas James said...

I think that is a slight exaggeration. Beal is hitting 34% of his 3's. Not a stellar number but ok. The problem is not that he shots 3's but that he shoots too many of them. In SEC play he has gone 8 for 24 from downtown. I think that number should be somewhere between 15-20 in 4 games. Basically he takes 2 or 3 too many 3 pointers a game.

Granted I'd much rather Jenkins taking those shots (also a really under-rated 3 point shooter all season has been Gouldbourne hitting at nearly 44%), but we can't eliminate that part of Beal's game. He just has to be smarter on when he is taking those shots and how often.

Unknown said...

Is it really an exaggeration? Let's think about this hypothetically. Let’s say a player, we’ll call him “the predicament” attempts 6 3- pointers and makes 2 (33%, which is what you would be shooting if you hypothetically went 8 for 24 in the last 4 games). Now compare that too that same predicament who takes 6 two pointers and makes three, but during that time, because he’s not standing still jacking up threes and posing no real threat to make a play, he also draws a foul or two on his defender, maybe gets an assist to a red hot shooting freshmen, makes a free throw or two, and gives off softer rebounds when he does shoot that maybe his team manages to get some of. Even if that player turns the ball over once or twice trying to facilitate all of this, isn’t that a much better scenario then getting the same 6 points without using any clock, running an offense, or getting rebounders into position? I’m just not seeing the argument here, please explain how I am crazy for thinking that Beal shooting threes when we have other people who shoot better and he is more effective when not shooting three is a terrible idea. (Note: this theory was originally postulated by Espn’s Bill Simmons and I’m not attempting to take credit, simply prove a point)

Douglas James said...

First off I agree there are better options than Beal from behind the arc. However there are several reasons why i disagree w/ your theory. First Beal is just not a slasher (like Devan Downey for example), so I think its unwise to have him attempt that (he is not going to get fouled any more on jump shots then he does on 3's btw). Also I can't be sure but I'm sure he already does what you suggest a couple times a game . If he was to increase the amount of times he does that the offense just becomes that much more predictable. We have Jeff Taylor, Andre Walker and maybe even Lance for this kind of offense.

Secondly we typically have problems when AJ doesn't have room to operate down low. The easiest way to help him out is to force defenders to be honest on the players around the perimeter. If those defenders KNOW that Beal will not take a 3 then they are less likely to do that. Especially if Jenkins is not in the game at the moment.

Finally what I wanted to say but maybe left out was that if Beal limited his 3's I think he would increase his 3pt % significantly. I think sometimes he thinks he needs to shoot us back into the game or put that dagger in the other team when this is not what he needs to do. I think if he decreases his 3's attempted from 6 a game to say 4 then I can see his % jumping to around 40% (which is what it was last year) which would result in forcing teams to respect his shot and open the lanes for our forwards and centers to bring it to the hoop.

I have been outspoken that he needs to be smarter with his shots. Thats the way you get better basketball, not by telling him "you not shooting 3's anymore". All that does is limit his offensive weapons and hence the amount of ways the team can score.

If Beal was a small slasher like Downey I might agree with you. But thats not the case. A large % of his points will always come from the 3 point line because thats the type of player he is.

Colin said...

We aren't talking about wide open three's here. 90% of the three's he is taking are with 30 seconds on the clock and a guy in front of him or in transition. I am more then okay with saying no more. If he was shooting three's in the rhythm of the offense then your argument would be valid, but he shoots them in spite of the concept of running an offense. Incidentally he is only making 2 a game, and more of his three's end up in turnovers then in baskets. He is the only one confident in his mid range jumper and our best back door cutter so I think that is what he should stick to.

Anonymous said...

Do you guys have an English class to go to while you're analyzing the team? Improve your grammar,spelling and sentence structure so we can understand what the h... you're trying to say.

Stanimal said...

You can give me an F in grammar if you want, but the DORES ARE 5-0 IN THE SEC!

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